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Category Archives: Covert Action

DOJ Announces Indictment of 6 Chinese Nationals for Economic Espionage

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 11:02 AM

Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of six Chinese nationals on charges of economic espionage and theft of trade secrets “for their roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of universities and companies controlled by the PRC government.” One suspect, a Chinese professor named Zhang Hao, was . . .
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Lindsey Graham’s Iowa Drone Strike Out

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Monday, May 18, 2015 at 6:22 PM

It’s a crowded field for Republican presidential candidates, but Lindsey Graham knows how to differentiate himself from the pack: he loves drone strikes more than his competitors. Speaking the other night at the Iowa Republican Lincoln Dinner, as the Washington Post reports, Graham made clear he is positioning himself as the most hawkish candidate in the . . .
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Hersh’s Account of the Bin Laden Raid is Journalistic Malpractice

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Monday, May 11, 2015 at 10:10 PM

When a journalist writes a tell-all story about a classified operation, and he suspects the story will catalyze anti-American anger, provide fuel for terrorist groups, and cause severe friction with foreign governments, the act of publication is morally fraught. When the story is based on obscenely thin sourcing and careens into conspiracy theories, the decision . . .
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The Increasing State Practice and Opinio Juris on Spying

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Ben flagged today that the Germans have been caught out spying on friends and allies. What makes this a story is the way the Germans responded more than a year ago when Snowden’s leaks revealed that the NSA was spying on Angela Merkel: with shock and awe. Stepping back a bit from the substance of NSA’s . . .
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New AP Poll on U.S. Targeted Killing Program

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Friday, May 1, 2015 at 11:16 AM

A new AP-GFK poll released today finds broad swaths of the American public continue to strongly support the U.S. targeted killing program. The poll was conducted in the days immediately following President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States had mistakenly killed an American and Italian hostage in a drone strike on a suspected al Qaeda compound. . . .
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Another Response to the New York Times Flap

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 7:03 PM

An intelligence community reader writes in with the following response to my post this morning on Dean Baquet’s interview with Jack: The issue is not [only] whether the true name and affiliation [of the covert officer] are known to the editors and reporters of the New York Times, and to the persons in their professional and social . . .
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Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times Weighs In

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 2:34 PM

The estimable Mark Mazzetti—the New York Times national security reporter who wrote the story over the weekend that prompted the outing-CIA-officers flap—writes in with the following note in response to my post this morning reflecting on Jack’s interview with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet: You summarized Dean’s points pretty well, but I would strongly emphasize another point. These . . .
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A Thought on Dean Baquet’s Comments to Jack

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 11:47 AM

This morning, Jack published an interview he conducted yesterday with New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet about the paper’s decision the other day to publish the names of three covert CIA officers. Earlier this week, DNI General Counsel Robert Litt blasted this decision, and—among other things—Baquet in the interview defends it. Baquet offers a . . .
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Interview With Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of New York Times, on Publication Decisions About Intelligence Secrets, and More

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 9:10 AM

On April 25, two days after President Obama announced that a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed two innocent hostages, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo published a story in the New York Times about congressional and White House support for the CIA’s “targeted killing program.” A major point in the story was that some of the . . .
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The Latest Erosion Of Norms Against Publishing Classified Information

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Director of National Intelligence General Counsel Bob Litt says the NYT “disgraced itself” by “publishing an article in which it purported to name three covert CIA officers.” The article in question identified the “chief of operations during the birth of the agency’s detention and interrogation program [who] then, as head of the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center, . . .
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Waiving the “Imminent Threat” Test for CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan?

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Monday, April 27, 2015 at 12:49 AM

[Update: Ryan Goodman has an excellent post here noting that a January 2013 WaPo article anticipated that CIA would get a waiver for Pakistan ops, albeit not necessarily a waiver specific only to the imminent-threat-to-US-persons rule.] Adam Entous has an important story in the Wall Street Journal tonight, one that I suspect will get a . . .
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Drone Strike Errors and the Hostage Tragedy: Mapping the Issues in the Newly-Catalyzed Debate?

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Friday, April 24, 2015 at 2:57 PM

The use of lethal force (whether via armed drone, manned aircraft, cruise missile, helicopter assault, etc.) has been a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism policy for many years, both in places where we have ground combat deployments and places where we do not. Throughout this period, the legality, efficacy, wisdom, and morality of this practice has . . .
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The Perils of Partial Official Acknowledgment

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Friday, April 24, 2015 at 9:20 AM

Yesterday the President acknowledged that the United States inadvertently killed an American citizen and an Italian citizen held hostage by al-Qaida.  The killings, he said, took place during “a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”  The President also directed his press secretary to acknowledge that the government inadvertently killed . . .
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Another Response on Harold Koh

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Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 8:19 PM

Yesterday, I published this correspondence from a government lawyer who thought I had been unfair to Harold Koh in describing his role at the State Department as being “obstructionist” with respect to the drone program. Here’s another response I received, this one from someone else who observed the process and who agrees with my characterization—though . . .
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U.S. Drone Strike Reportedly Killed Two Hostages Held by Al-Qaeda, One American and One Italian, as well as an American Al-Qaeda Member

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Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 10:15 AM

Breaking news from the New York Times: The White House acknowledged on Thursday that two hostages held by Al Qaeda were accidentally killed in an American government counterterrorism operation in January and said President Obama “takes full responsibility.” In an extraordinary statement, the White House said intelligence agencies had confirmed that Warren Weinstein, an American held . . .
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A Response on Harold Koh

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 1:26 PM

I received the following email from a government lawyer who was involved in the drone strike discussions about my post yesterday about Harold Koh’s role in those discussions: I think your characterization of Harold as “obstructionist” is unfair. I often disagreed with him, but I have no doubt that he was endeavoring to put on . . .
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Targeting AQAP’s Mufti Ibrahim al-Rubaysh

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 9:42 AM

Last Wednesday, the New York Times brought us the news that a U.S. drone strike had killed Ibrahim al-Rubaysh—allegedly a top ideologue, spokesman, and operational planner for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In a post over on Just Security, NYU Law Professor Ryan Goodman asked, “is a cleric like al-Rubaysh a legitimate military target?” It . . .
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The Strange Case of Harold Koh at NYU

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 1:16 AM

I would normally lay off writing about the flap that has erupted at NYU over Harold Koh’s presence there. Academic politics don’t interest me much. Student protests interest me even less. And student protests based on false facts that, in turn, lead to academics piously leaping to the defense of one another’s virtues and students . . .
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The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television

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Friday, April 17, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Though everyone would surely prefer otherwise, public relations crises are part of the CIA’s ordinary business. The fact that so much of its work is classified puts the Agency in one of those tricky, plumber-like governmental roles: when it does its job right, no one should notice. But when it screws up, there’s a mess, . . .
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U.S. Support for the Saudi Air Campaign in Yemen: The Legal Issues

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 3:02 PM

For the past couple of weeks, a Saudi-led coalition has been engaged in a substantial air campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen. The United States is not conducting its own air strikes against the Houthis, but it is providing various forms of material and intelligence support to the coalition, including armaments, air-to-air refueling services, satellite . . .
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